What Makes It Great

There are a lot of times when I’m writing that I feel like this guy but without the spectre of death looming over me. Image borrowed from this site.

When I read something I really like, that makes me think, that just stuns me with its elegance or simplicity or beauty, I want to emulate it. I want to know why it works so well, why it hit me so hard. I want to dissect it and hold its beating heart in my hands in order to understand. When I get frustrated, I watch this clip from A League Of Their Own.

However, since I have very little schooling, or formal training, as a writer I don’t have any way to really dig in and get to the core of something I want to learn. The tools just aren’t there. So what I have to do is sit down and study. And study hard.

The thing is that when I do that, it’s kind of frustrating. Actually not just kind of frustrating, really frustrating. It’s time I have to spend on something that I’m absolutely sure that my peers in the Cafe who have the formal schooling, the training, can figure out in a heartbeat and then get back to writing. The most difficult part of being a self-taught writer is asking for help as to why something works or doesn’t. Knowing what I like and trying to write like that is really the best I can do and knowing that it’s possible that there’s another way is maddening. What’s worse, I could ask my friends in the Cafe and they would tell me. I don’t, though, and I can’t tell you why. Not for any reason other than I just don’t.

But one of the easy parts of being self-taught is that I don’t have to care why something works. I can write and not worry. Sit my ass in a chair and start typing.

That’s as easy as it sounds.

But what’s easier is just getting into the Zone and writing for all I’m worth. Once my fingers start flying over the keys and I see words piling up in a story or an essay (like this one) I’m feeling pretty good about being a writer. It’s up to others to judge how good a writer I am, but when things are firing on all cylinders I feel like a capital-W Writer.

Look, anyone who thinks that being a writer is easy, that all you have to do is write, is fooling himself. It’s as difficult as any other skilled work in any other sector of society. Just like those who denigrate abstract art as “something my kid could do,” it’s ludicrous to think that “anyone” can be a writer. It takes a lot of will, imagination, and strength to do this work. It’s about desire and organization on multiple levels no matter what the genre.

When I tell you something is easy, it’s because I’ve been practicing, working at being a writer. Telling stories that entertain others is hard work, make no mistake, and as rewarding as being a rock star performing on stage when the audience gets what you’re saying. When I tell you something is hard, you can believe it’s hard for me and that it might be easier for someone else with training.

What I want you to take away from this is that I love what I do, and I work hard at it every day. You can, too, if that’s what you want to do.

All you have to do is do it.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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